After a successful pilot of Boston After School & Beyond’s Certified Observer Network in the fall of 2016, 31 individuals completed their training in May 2017 to join the network. During the two-day training provided by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, participants learned to observe using NIOST and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Assessment of Program Practices Tool (APT).
Coupled with inaugural class from school-year 16-17, over 50 individuals to date have participated in the certified observer training. An impressive 45 individuals representing 23 organizations are now formally certified with 11 individuals still waiting to complete their tandem visit. Thanks to the efforts of this network, 25 summer programs have received an APT observation this year.
Benefits of the Certified Observer Network
The Certified Observer Network holds a variety of benefits for individuals, youth-serving programs, and Boston Beyond’s citywide network. Importantly, it stimulates peer-to-peer learning and collaboration.
As staff members from participating organizations observe fellow programs in Boston, they witness best practices in action across the city. Professionals in Boston’s out-of-school time (OST) field can network with other program staff and expand their resume to include research-validated evaluation experiences. Hear directly from two certified observers below.
Utilizing the APT as an observer and getting to see peer programs operate enhanced my skill set as a practitioner and exposed me to new models of best practice. I highly recommend the experience to others and look forward to conducting future site observations.” – Mike Dennehy, Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math/Science, Boston University
Participating in the Observer Certifiaction experience provided me not only with the tools to objectively observe another program, but a framework for articulating best practices within my own program. It has been a pleasure learning alongside professionals who are passionate about creating and offering quality youth development programming.” – Celena Illuzzi, Branching Out, Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, National Park Service
Additionally, programs can leverage a research-validated tool to keep a pulse on their program quality. With certified staff, programs can confidently assess their own quality on an ongoing basis in addition to the one-time, third-party observation offered by Boston Beyond. Finally, the Certified Observer Network advances the sustainability of Boston Beyond’s continuous improvement system by leveraging partner expertise in high quality program practices to support evaluation and professional development efforts.
Boston Beyond is deeply invested in the growth of this network. Modeling a commitment to this effort, four Boston Beyond staff went through the training in the spring, with a goal to have all staff certified by fall 2017. In the upcoming school year, all programs currently using APT and SAYO Y will have at least one member of their staff join the Certified Observer Network.
In the past year, the Certified Observer Network has emerged as a successful new strategy to expand collaboration and evaluation efforts among Boston Beyond’s program partners. If you are interested in learning more or joining this network, please contact Kelsey Cowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.